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ROBERT ELSMERE'S MENTAL STRUGGLES. 



The hundreds of thousands of people who read " Robert 
Elsmere " in England and America, approach the book from two 
wholly different points of view. 

By far the larger set of them has been taught from the pulpit, 
and has believed, that some particular church, Presbyterian, 
Episcopal, Baptist, or Catholic has distinct title deeds running 
back to the moment when Jesus Christ parted from his apostles. 

The other set has known that there are no such title deeds 
for any of the great ecclesiastical organizations. The Roman 
Catholic Church, which Bunsen called " The First of Schis- 
matics," has none. The Episcopal Church has none. The 
Presbyterian Church has none. Cardinal Newman put the truth 
forcibly, but not too forcibly, when he said of the Catholic doc- 
trine of Trinity, "The creeds of that early day make no mention 
in their letter of the Catholic doctrine at all. They make mention, 
indeed, of a three. But that there is any mystery in the doctrine — 
that the three are one; that they are co-equal, co-eternal, all increate, 
all omnipotent, all incomprehensible, is not stated, and never 
could be gathered from them. Of course, we believe that they 
imply it, or rather intend it; God forbid we should do otherwise. 
But nothing in the mere letter of those documents leads to that 
belief. To give a deeper meaning to their letter we must interpret 
them by the times which come after;" that is, by the fourth and 
later centuries. 

He goes on to say the same of the one great Christian Council 
of the third century, of the six great bishops and saints of the 
first three centuries, of the three great doctrinal writers ; — and 
he quotes Bull, an English bishop, as saying that nearly all the 
Catholic authors who preceded Arius "have the appearance 
VOL. CXLTIII.— no. 386. 7 



98 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

of being ignorant of the invisible and incomprehensible nature of 
the Son." 

In the same way, he says of the doctrine of original sin, 
" There are two doctrines which are generally associated with the 
name of a Father of the fourth and fifth centuries, and which 
can allege little definite testimony in their behalf before his time, 
purgatory and original sin." 

All well-read clergymen, interested in history, have always 
known that these statements of Cardinal Newman are true, that 
is, that there is an historical gap between modern scientific theol- 
ogy and the New Testament. Since the publication, a few years 
ago, of an English translation of all the Ante-Nicene fathers, all 
intelligent English students of history, whether clergymen or 
Greek scholars or not, have had a chance to see this with their 
own eyes. 

To all these people, therefore, the feeling about "Robert Els- 
mere" has been that, which it is said the reader of a great publish- 
ing house had, when he determined that that house should not re- 
print it for circulation in America : "It is straw which has been 
thrashed over for fifteen years," he said. It had been thrashed 
over for him and people like him. But the great run of Christian 
people had been permitted or led to believe, in what I think an 
uncandid way,* each that his own church was sustained in its 
organization and its dogma by the consent and custom of the 
earliest centuries of Christianity. People always alluded fondly 
to the " Early Christians," and every one liked to think that the 
" Early Christians" and he were exactly in accord. 

Now " Robert Elsmere " steps in. With artistic skill, Mrs. 
Ward refuses to tell one word of what he read in these mysterious 
"studies" which were so fatal to his peace and to Katharine's. All 
the reader knows is that he came out from his reading sure that 
there was no apostolic succession; sure, as Cardinal Newman says, 
in the passage I have cited, that there was no scientific doctrine 
of the Trinity; sure that there was no doctrine of the vicarious 
atonement in these early books, and shocked to find, for instance, 
that an author like Clement, a friend of Paul, speaks of the resur- 

* I said so In The North American Review some years ago. The Review and 
I were much abused in consequence. The "Religious" press answered, almost 
unanimously, "If Mr. Hale is uncandid, let him reform, but do not let him attack 
others." But the secular press, with nearly equal unanimity, said that Mr. Hale had 
touched a sore point. 



ROBERT ELSMERE'S MENTAL STRUGGLES. 99 

rection of the Phoenix once in five hundred years, apparently 
with the same confidence with which he speaks of the resurrec- 
tion of Jesus Christ. 

Also, Eobert Elsmere was one of these people who really believe 
that a man has a right to be a minister only because he has been 
ordained by a bishop, who has been ordained by another, who is the 
last in a long series which began with St. Peter. When he came 
to read the history of the first three centuries, he found that there 
was no such succession. He found that those whom modern 
language chooses to call "bishops," were the business officers of 
the little Christian communities, who did the work entrusted to 
them as well as they could, and were quite indifferent about the 
manner of their appointment. This for a single instance. He 
found, also, that in the very queer and fragmentary scraps of 
Christian literature which testify to the existence of the church 
between the time of St. Paul and the time of Constantine, there 
is not the least uniformity of doctrine. There is not the slightest 
critical habit of investigation. There is often preposterous wild- 
ness of fancy, amounting to tedious rigmarole. There are 
confident assertions of many things much harder to believe than 
the miracles recorded in the gospels. And no pretence is made 
anywhere to critical investigation of authority or authentic- 
ity. 

If the plan of the North American Keview permitted, the 
whole of this number could be filled with very entertaining ex- 
tracts from these books of two centuries and a half, which Robert 
Elsmere read. Most of them are not very long books. It is fair, 
perhaps, to say that none of them were written by men of genius; 
almost all of them are written by very ignorant men, and some by 
very foolish men, so that this word "rigmarole" applies very 
fairly to much more than half of their contents. For all this, 
they are vastly entertaining, sometimes amusing, though often 
ridiculous. Almost the whole of these collections is contained in 
a series known as the " Ante-Mcene Fathers," which has been 
published, quite conveniently, within the last twenty years. The 
fact that these things exist in English now, while formerly they 
were buried in Greek and Latin, is one of the reasons why the 
young theologians of the " established " church now read them a 
great deal more easily than they did. Indeed, if anybody asks 
why the revulsion of feeling which now shows itself in the Eng- 



100 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

lish Church Congress, never showed itself fifty years ago, it is 
probable that a good working answer would be found in the fact 
that Englishmen now read the literature of the first three centuries 
a great deal more easily than they could read it before. Frankly, 
let it be said, the average clergyman in a country cure in 
England did not read Greek at sight very easily, and would 
rather read " The Guardian " in English than such a book as 
Tatian's " Orator," or " The Constitutions of the Apostles," 
in rather crabbed Greek. Now he has the whole thing at 
hand, as any of our readers have, who choose to send to the 
next good public library to ask for any of this literature, so 
lately forbidden.* 

It also ought to be said, however, that the grand church writers 
of every school, excepting the liberal schools, have turned up 
their noses at the literature before the time of Constantine. 
As Dr. Newman says, theology was not at all "developed" at that 
time, and it is only a "developed theology" that the church at 
large has cared to present to Christians at large, whether of the 
Protestant or of the Roman schisms. Original Christianity, 
simple Christianity, is quite a different affair from the "de- 
veloped" or manufactured article. And the reading of these 
Fathers before Constantine, was by no means encouraging for 
neophytes, or for anybody else who undertook it, unless he came 
to it, as Cardinal Newman came to it, with a determination in 
advance to believe the religion of the Middle Ages, and to 
make the religion of the first, second, and third centuries match 
that, by reading between the lines. It has been the fashion, 
therefore, in most theological schools, in most books of criticism, 
and, one might say fairly enough, in most well-bred theological 
circles, to set out of sight the "ignorant and unlearned men," 
who are, as it happens, the only persons through whom we know 
what Christianity was, or was doing in the first three hundred 
years of its existence. I do not myself remember any such curious 
instance of the suppression by indirection of a sort of literature 
which came inconveniently in the way of a regnant school. But, 
if one may be pardoned an allusion to the customs of our own time, 
it was a little as a modern Democratic president of the United 
States, holding and using the enormous centralized power of the 

* Ask for any volume you choose of " The Ante-Nicene Fathers, " or ask for " The 
Catechism of the Twelve Apostles," which is not in that series. 



ROBERT ELSMERE'S MENTAL STRUGGLES. 101 

federal administration, always speaks very respectfully of Thomas 
Jefferson, but still takes very good care that none of his earlier 
maxims, about the danger of a central government, shall ever be 
alluded to. Cardinal Newman would say that this was a perfectly 
fair illustration. He would say that the United States has found 
out that it cannot get along without a very strong central govern- 
ment, that the doctrine of a central government has been " de- 
veloped " in the last hundred years ; and he would say that, in 
exactly the same way, the church has found out that it cannot 
get along without an infallible chief, and without a great many 
other things which cannot be found in the letter of the early 
records. But, just as a strong central government has been " de- 
veloped " in the United States, he would say that these conven- 
ient enlargements have been " developed " in the history of the 
church. 

So much for the reason why Robert Elsmere and all other 
intelligent people who care to preserve a historical foundation for 
Christianity, find that the study of the first three centuries makes 
Christianity to be a very different thing from what it is called in 
the creeds of the Dark Ages. 

But, on the other hand, those people who have always taken 
their Christianity simply from the four gospels, have always known 
that the Saviour of mankind said that love of God and love of 
man is the whole of it. People who have read Paul's epistles with 
care know that he said that faith, hope and love are eternal. And 
they are not surprised if they find that nothing else is eternal. 
Here, as such people have found long ago, is the working relig- 
ion, which is the absolute religion which Jesus Christ proclaimed 
for the world : Faith, or a steady belief in God and in His ab- 
solute presence ; Hope, a steady sense of immortality, working 
in a life which immortals lead ; Love, which is now called " al- 
truism," or a feeling on the part of every man that he does not 
live for himself, but that he lives for the whole race. These 
three constitute the Way of Life as Jesus Christ understood it 
and as He tried to make the world understand it. 

Now, when people who have been trained to this simple religion 
read the literature which upset poor Robert Elsmere, they are 
not upset at all. On the other hand, they find that these simple, 
foolish, ignorant writers, who have left us the fragments of the 
Christian literature of the first centuries, are all alive with Faith 



102 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

and Hope and Love. They went and came with an absolute belief 
in the presence of God. Every man, woman or child of them 
was sure of immortality ; they went to martyrdom with perfect 
delight, because they were sure that they were entering on the 
larger life. And so much love they had about them, they bore 
each other's burdens so completely, that the world is not quite 
sure but that they were socialists and had common property. I 
do not think they had ; but this impression has gone abroad 
quite widely. 

A fair review, then, of the very authorities which upset Robert 
Elsmere's mediaeval Christianity only confirms the religion of peo- 
ple who have been willing to take the four gospels as the text- 
book, and have rejected all the subsequent creeds and confessions. 
For one, I am very glad to have the attention of religious people 
brought back to the interesting and curious early literature which, 
while it destroys the man-made theology of the last fifteen centu- 
ries, sets in new light the simple, absolute religion which was pro- 
claimed by Jesus Christ : " with God, for man, in heaven." 

It is interesting to see that Mr. Gladstone, in his review of the 
book, virtually repeats Cardinal Newman's statement. Thus he 
says that the baptismal formula " was speedily developed into the 
substance of the Apostle's Creed." None the less does he claim 
that that creed must be received, if we are to have a good work- 
ing religion. And he seems to rely for the authority of the or- 
ganized Christianity of to-day on " the concord of Christians, 
ever since the adjudication of the fifth century." And he says 
that " an established church, priesthood or ministry, sacraments 
and the whole established machinery which trains the Christian — 
are the wings of the soul." 

Still, he knows that many people do not find this machinery 
to fly very well, and that for many people it does not help them 
to fly. Many people believe that a church can exist without so 
much machinery — and that, if the Saviour of men had thought 
the machinery absolutely necessary, He would not have left it to 
the chances of development. 

Edward Everett Hale. 

II. 

Mr. Gladstone thus epitomizes the motif of "Kobert Els- 
mere": 

" It certainly offers us a substitute for revealed religion ; and 



ROBERT ELSMERE'S MENTAL STRUGGLES. 103 

possibly the thought of the book might be indicated in these 
words : ' The Christianity accepted in England is a good thing ; 
but come with me and I will show you a better.' " 

To a thoughtful, deYOut woman the most significant page of 
the remarkable novel is that which describes the " white-letter 
days " in the Murewell Eectory, while husband and wife were still 
one in religious belief. It is a pure, passionate idyl of domestic 
loves and heavenly aspiration which we find in the story of the 
evenings when the wedded lovers arose, by solemn stages, from 
Dante and Milton to the study of the well-worn Greek Testament : 

"Which he would make her read .... mostly that he might get from her 
some of that garnered wealth of spiritual experience which he adored in her. They 
would go from verse to verse, from thought to thought, till suddenly, perhaps, the 
tide of feeling would rise, and while the wind swept around the house, and the owls 
hooted in the elms, they would sit, hand in hand, lost in love and faith,— Christ near 
them,— Eternity, warm with God, enwrapping them." 

This is not monastic mysticism. We are told that Elsmere 
enjoyed, meanwhile, " with all his heart," his work among the 
suffering poor, and his influence in a long-neglected parish that 
called forth every energy of a robust body and eager mind. At 
no other period of his life do we find more abundant evidence of 
physical, mental, and spirital sanity than during the divine calm 
preceding a dawnless night of tempest. 

Let . the "white-letter day" stand as a type of the result 
wrought by the Christianity accepted in England and in all 
places where the Christ is worshiped as very God, and beloved as 
very Man. 

What " better thing " is offered us in the almost four hun- 
dred pages that follow ? 

Mr. Gladstone, and abler masters in polemics than the Christ- 
ian premier, have demonstrated the singular weakness of a work 
which, professing to weigh testimony, ignores the cumulative evi- 
dence representing the wisdom and research of centuries. Eob- 
ert Elsmere's faith is founded upon emotion ; his unfaith has root 
in reason. If any one thing is clearly proven in the story, it is 
this. The candid reader smiles at the authorly partisanship 
which overlooks the fact that the magnificent intellect of the 
Squire is as manifestly warped in this regard as the facile mind of 
the neophyte. Were it otherwise, the injunction to "read 
Christian documents in the light of a trained scientific criticism " 
would have a converse recommendation. 



104 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

The writer of this paper does not presume to deal with this 
and weightier sections of the subject in hand, but would confine 
herself to the consideration of the simple " thought of the book." 
The quest for the " better thing" becomes agony as we follow the 
victim — whom we cease to call the hero — through by-way and 
slough. 

" Doubt," " agony," " remorse," " depression," " irrita- 
bility," "sheer worry," "sleeplessness,'" "religious dread;" 
we catch the words in turning the leaves until the crisis of anguish 
is reached in recantation. 

" All these years of happy spiritual certainty, of rejoicing one- 
ness with Christ, to end in this wreck and loss ! Was not this, 
indeed, ' il gran rifuto f the greatest of which human daring is 
capable ?" 

Henceforward, until death ends the tragedy, he is out of his 
depth and swimming for his life. ~'o his wife's adjuration, 
"Perhaps even you think it ends here— our life, our love ?" he 
replies, " his eyes hidden in his hands '" (In unconscious symbol- 
ism), " I know nothing, I know nothing I " 

His labors among the New Brotherhood r,ro more like the toss- 
ings of one burning with fever than the sustained purposeful 
work of a rational philanthropist. His fierce displeasure at the 
coarse blasphemies flaunting in the windows of tho Free Thinkers' 
Club during Passion Week ; " the two-fold dm— tho rousing of 
moral sympathy and the awakening of tho imaginative power"— 
"the first steps," which, we are told, "had nothing to do with 
religion" of his mission in the room vhcro "he reads and 
expounds some passage from tho life of Christ r.z a lecturer might 
expound a passage of Tacitus ;" the fight with visions of the Paver 
of Death ; of his early home, love and faith ; the bitter cry, 

"My God! my God! No time, no future!" 
the wail that, as he sinks on his knece in tho certainty of nearing 
death, "rings through him, deafening every other cry"— 

" Quittez—quittez—le long espoir et les vastes pensees !" 
the weeks of depression and misery subsiding in blind submis- 
sion to the will of Him "who cannot lead us to the end and dis- 
appoint the craving He Himself set in us,"— the slow death-scene, 
in which critical problems of the Greek Testament take their turn 
with Wordsworth and Tennyson— most frequently with Virgil,— 
the murmured mention, with his failing voice, of the dead man 



ROBERT ELSMERE'S MENTAL STRUGGLES. 105 

who had led him into "the new world which is the old" of Doubt 
and TJnfaith, — " where — what is he now ? Ah ! if somewhere, 
somehow, one could, — " are we to accept these as the tokens, tests 
and triumphs of the Better Thing? 

Do we not rather recognize in all the echo, in more piteous 
strain, of the Magdalen's lament — 

•'They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they 
have laid Him !" 

In the whole sad volume there are no more mournful, yet ar- 
rogant, lines than the declaration : " The ashes of Jesus of Naz- 
areth mingled with the earth of Palestine/' 

Where did Robert Elsmere get his "historical Christ " ? 

Concerning the " Galilasan peasant who was born, and grew 
to manhood, and preached, and loved, and died," the " tremen- 
dous fact which cannot be scoffed away," the pagan oracles, whose 
testimony Wendover and his pupil admit without cavil, are dumb. 
If He be not the Immanuel, the God with-us of the New Testa- 
ment, Who was dead, and is alive and liveth forevermore, the 
Christ is not, and never was. " The magic, the permanence, the 
expansiveness of the young Nazarene's central conception — the 
spiritualized, universalized Kingdom of God," is the fairest and 
most chimerical of the " beautiful fairy tales " which Langham, 
Gray, Elsmere, Wendover, and the "genuine British artisan" 
unite in refusing to believe. 

" We must re-conceive the Christ ! " Elsmere preaches to his 
motley audience, with italicized vehemence. 

Outside of the Scriptures, which he sandwiches between the 
Idyls of the King and the Eneid, the centuries he invites his fol- 
lowers to explore return not a whisper of "the Christ of Galilee 
and the Christ of Jerusalem." The lecturer must create for him- 
self "the tremendous fact." 

"The Master " who " moves toward him in the guise of com- 
mon manhood, laden like His fellows with the pathetic weight of 
human weakness and human ignorance," is less an historic entity 
than Prometheus, as truly a myth as Sintram, if the History of 
Testimony exclude that of the Gospels, and human reason assumes 
to winnow the probable from the impossible in the utterances re- 
corded as His, and to make selection of the fittest from the inci- 
dents of His biography. 

The Resurrection is no more a miracle than the Birth in 



106 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

Bethlehem. Tried by the line of Common Sense and proved by 
the plummet of Precedent, the sublime life of the unlettered peas- 
ant, His system of morals, His spiritual intuitions and His influ- 
ence upon the world and the ages, are the wildest improbability 
of all, unless we include in the category the "Present Christ 
beside him," on the heath which was the wretched man's Geth- 
semane. 

" Take it to your heart again," — thus the " sacred presence," 
— " that life, that pain of mine! Use it to new ends, apprehend 
in it new ways." 

To no dead mortal are given omniscience and omnipresence. 
"Miracles do not happen." 

Declining, then, to accept this Elsmere — poor, driven bit of 
stubble ! — as exponent and monument of the Better Thing, we 
find them instead, in Wendover. Here the disciple is not greater 
than or equal to his lord. The Squire's sarcastic dictum, ".Every- 
thing can be got out of in this world," has one exception, — the 
power, fatal or glorious, of opinion and belief to stamp themselves 
upon the life, and the sure correspondence of tree and fruit. 

Marion Haklastd. 



III. 

" Eobert Elsmere " is the echo of an echo. In its central 
anti-supernaturalistic contentions, it is largely a rehash of the 
anonymous work, " Supernatural Eeligion," which some years 
ago made considerable noise in England. That work was sub- 
stantially an echo of a now decadent continental school of ration- 
alistic criticism, led chiefly by Strauss and Benan. Matthew 
Arnold's own positions in relation to historic Christianity were 
largely such an echo. It is or ought to be well known that, 
after full and prolonged hearing, they have produced small effect 
upon real experts in the field of discussion to which they refer. 
Mrs. Ward's book echoes on this subject her uncle's now really 
belated and outgrown opinions. Eoger Wendover is a disciple of 
a school of anti-supernaturalism that has been discredited in the 
highest circles of scholarship in Germany for nearly a quarter of 
a century. He is the echo of an echo after the original voice has 
ceased to be authoritative. 

Strauss himself abandoned the famous Mythical Hypothesis 



ROBERT ELSMERE'S MENTAL STRUGGLES. 107 

before he died. It was buried before its author, as every scholar 
knows. Professor Christlieb and Professor Luthardt, foremost 
among thoroughly evangelical experts of Germany in the depart- 
ment of the Christian evidences, assure the world that Strauss' 
theory no longer needs to be answered in the theological depart- 
ments of the German universities. " It has been swept out at the 
back-doors of German intellectual workshops," said Professor 
Christlieb once to the present writer, " and it ill becomes English- 
men or Americans to feed on food that Germans have thrown out 
of doors as intellectual refuse." 

In the chief anti-supernaturalistic positions of " Kobert Els- 
mere " there is nothing new to theological scholars. The gospels 
themselves are proof that, in the age in which they originated, 
miracles were by no means attributed to every prominent religious 
teacher. "John did no miracle," is the cool record, "and yet 
all things that he spoke of Christ were true." No miracle is at- 
tributed to Christ himself, before his baptism. 

The character of Christ is an historical and unassailable reality. 
It is itself the supreme miracle. His sinlessness forbids his pos- 
sible classification with men. In connection with this supreme 
miracle other miracles are to be expected. On his death-bed, 
Professor de Wette, the Coryphaeus of German rationalism in his 
time, made this concession, over which Neander, the church his- 
torian, shed tears when he read it : " Although a mystery which 
cannot be dissipated rests on the way and manner of the resurrec- 
tion of Christ, the fact of the resurrection can no more be brought 
into doubt by honest historic evidence than can the assassination 
of Caesar." 

In Germany itself, the school of thought which Roger Wend- 
over represents has met with most disastrous defeats in the high- 
est places of learning. Although the opposite was the case fifty 
years ago, the young men in the German universities, who are 
all free to choose for themselves, are now patronizing evangelical 
in preference to rationalistic theological professors in the propor- 
tion of ten to one. " The unforced opinions of young men," 
Lord Bacon said, " are the best materials for prophecy." 

There should have been introduced into "Robert Elsmere" 
some character like Professor Luthardt, or Professor Christlieb, 
to balance the Squire and Professor Gray. The defense of sound 
views is left to Catherine chiefly, and her intellectual equipment 



108 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

is insufficient for the exigency. Her character triumphs, how- 
ever, and cannot but command reverence, although she is by no 
means such an antagonist as a Mrs. Browning or a Mrs. Stowe 
would have been. One of her central positions has often been 
taken in the course of centuries of debate as to the Christian evi- 
dences, and has never been successfully controverted : Either 
Jesus was what he claimed to he, or he was not a good man, nor 
even sane. 

That Christ was either an impostor or self -deceived, or else 
that he bore intelligent and trustworthy testimony concerning 
himself, is not often seriously denied. But to assume, as Robert 
Elsmere does, that miracles do not occur, and to admit that 
Christ, therefore, was self-deceived, or an impostor, and yet to 
establish something like a worship of him, is a self-contradiction 
that has never shown itself capable of producing important move- 
ments in church history. The self-contradiction is too glaring to 
be kept hidden long from the eyes of its votaries. The attempt 
to eliminate the supernatural from Christianity and yet retain its 
spiritual power is like an effort to cut down a tree and yet retain 
its fruit season after season and its daily grateful shade. 

Prof. T. H. Green, of Oxford, whose character and philosophy 
are supposed to be represented by Tutor Gray in " Robert Els- 
mere," endeavors in a lay sermon on Faith to show how disbe- 
lievers in historic Christianity may yet retain its spiritual passion 
for holiness. His positions contain nothing novel to theological 
scholars. But he is more logical than Elsmere, for he sees that 
the work of such disbelievers must be more or less crippled by 
their negations and doubts. " It will be," he says, " rather on 
the fringe of the Church that such work will lie. For some of the 
deeper charities of the Christian Society, such as ministering to 
the spiritual wants of the sick, speculative differences may for the 
present necessarily disqualify us." ("Works of T. H. Green, Vol. 
III., p. 278.) Professor Green himself would have expected only 
a dubious future for Robert Elsmere's new religious organization. 
When the Oxford teacher, whose work m philosophy and ethics 
is to be spoken of with far more reverence than his work in the- 
ology, lay dying, March 25th, 1882, his belief in God and immor- 
tality was clear, and one of his last requests was to have read to 
him the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. 

Robert Elsmere makes no adequate provision for the con- 



ROBERT ELSMERE'S MENTAL STRUGGLES. 109 

tinuance of the eccentric ethical society which he founds. Many 
such organizations have been tried at various periods of church 
history and have failed. The author of " Robert Elsmere " 
should have described the history of Elsmere's new brotherhood 
through three or four generations. New religions are to be 
judged not so much by the men who make them, as by the men 
they make. 

On the whole, therefore, brilliant and noble as much that 
" Eobert Elsmere " contains must be admitted to be, the book 
cannot be defended as a really fair or strong argument, nor even 
as a new one, against scholarly evangelical views. The prob- 
ability is, therefore, that while it may produce a considerable 
temporary effect in misleading half -equipped minds, its influence 
will not be permanent in circles at once alert, candid and well- 
informed, and spiritually devout, practical and aggressive. 

Not to quote Luthardt, Dorner, Ohristlieb, or other German 
writers on the Christian evidences, it may be worth while to men- 
tion a single American authority quite abreast of the freshest dis- 
cussions. The well-known works of Prof. G. P. Pisher, of Yale 
College, on " The Supernatural Origin of Christianity," and on 
" Grounds of Theistic and Christian Belief," contain, with thier 
references, a sufficient reply to the whole list of recent anti-super- 
naturalistic critics, and should be read by any one whose convic- 
tions are disturbed by Mrs. "Ward's novel. 

Robert Elsmere's best and noblest work was done in Surrey, 
when he and his wife labored hand-in-hand for the poor, and when 
he had not yet fallen under the influence of the Squire. No one 
in his senses can seriously wish to live the life and die the death 
of Roger "Wendover. 

Some one should write a work of fiction entitled " Robert 
Elsmere's Successor," showing the history of Elsmere's new 
brotherhood for several generations, and the general result of what 
Mr. Gladstone so justly calls an attempt to fly without wings. 

Joseph Cook. 

IV. 

The educative power of fiction is shown in nothing more 
than in the great interest which a novel of high class arouses in 
the community. In the light of its imaginative presentation, not 
only the aesthetic proprieties of life, but also its deep moral prob- 



110 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

lems, are brought freshly into the mind of the community, and the 
greatest are not too great to sit in judgment over the lesson which 
the book is held to teach. Surely, it is an instructive spectacle 
to see Mr. Gladstone, the foremost man in the political movement 
of the time, taking, from his arduous duties and absorbing pur- 
suits, the hours required for a careful perusal of " Eobert Elsmere," 
and an equally careful consideration of its merits and demerits. 
A novel, and a woman's novel at that, has called the great states- 
man and scholar from his manifold work to deliver to the world 
his opinion of the outcome of the book. This is a fact significant 
in itself. It is true, indeed, that a novel of equal value treating 
of another class of subjects would not have been likely to inter- 
rupt so seriously Mr. Gladstone's labors and studies. This one 
deals with religious opinions in whose advocacy the great Premier 
is deeply interested, and disposes of them in a sense adverse to 
his own. Right or wrong, he considers religious doctrine a mat- 
ter of sufficient importance to take precedence of the cares of 
state, of the delights of scholarship. In this concern, we shall 
surely justify him, even if our own conclusions differ widely from 
those which he has been at some pains to make public. 

Mr. Gladstone is by no means alone in his recognition of the 
importance of a work like "Robert Elsmere." Sermons have been 
preached about it in various places. Religionists of various 
opinions have spoken for and against it. I know of no story, since 
" Uncle Tom's Cabin," whose appearance had excited so much 
comment, intellectual interest of so high a character. Mrs. 
Ward has drawn for us the portrait of two white souls, white not 
only from native purity, but from the white heart fervor of re- 
ligious conscience. The terrible " categorical imperative " does 
not lead these two worthies into the same paths of thought. It 
prompts one of them to depart widely from received traditions 
and precepts, and impels the other to cling to them with an ever 
increasing tenacity. To the one, intellectual question becomes 
the first of duties, to the other it remains the most fatal of errors, 
but to each the inward monitor says: " Do what you must think 
your best, and abide the consequences." And each, in obedience 
to this command, sacrifices to the approval of conscience the joys 
and comforts which, after it, are dearest to each. The state of 
moral tension in which Robert Elsmere and his wife live and 
move, will seem almost inconceivable to those of the present day 



ROBERT ELSMERE'S MENTAL STRUGGLES. HI 

who are unacquainted with the religious discipline of the olden 
time. To this belonged strained and exaggerated views of the 
moral turpitude and impotence of human nature, and such a theory 
of the criminality of man's natural life as made the damnation 
of infants a proper prelude to that of the greater part of the 
human race. Insensibly, these views, though still held to by some 
religious bodies, have lost their hold upon the minds of men. 
But, while many of us have rejoiced even in the partial deliver- 
ance of Christendom from these undivine conceptions of God, 
these inhuman notions of man, Mr. Gladstone's criticism' of Rob- 
ert Elsmere seems to ignore this deliverance, and to insist upon 
the maintenance of the doctrines of divine wrath and miraculous 
redemption as conditions of true religious belief. 

It is hardly to be expected that those who undertake, in this 
symposium, to say their word about Robert Elsmere, will con- 
sider themselves bound to enter here a personal confession of 
faith, or to supply a formula which shall be sufficient to settle the 
religious differences of the world at the present time. To some, 
no doubt, his religious change of base will appear uncalled for, 
and even profane. To others, it will seem justifiable, and his 
conduct in connection with it praiseworthy. The novel suggests 
much which may have been new to its author, but which has 
long been familiar to the religious world in both hemispheres. 
The controversy between the miraculous and the ethical bases of 
religious belief resulted, many years ago, in the formation of the 
Unitarian denomination, whose influence has made itself strongly 
felt in Christendom. Priestly and Channing were its early 
apostles. Theodore Parker, in his day, gave great extension to its 
practical application. Emerson came out of it, and a host of men, 
remarkable in literature and philosophy, together with a ministry 
which has shown itself Catholic, sincere, and effective. Those 
who may feel moved by the present discussion to inquire more 
closely into its work and character will find these set forth in 
volumes and periodicals which have now attained a considerable 
circulation. For the explanation and elucidation of Elsmere's 
difficulties, such readers, then, may be referred to the Unitarian 
body of doctrine. It is Mrs. Ward's handling of these difficulties, 
her portrayal of a mind in which they become first the occasion 
of despairing doubt, then that of an almost bleeding sacrifice, 
leading to redoubled effort audTenewed comfort — this it is which 



112 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

appeals to the critical sense of the community, and asks a ver- 
dict, in her favor or against her. 

For a novel, Mrs. Ward's picture of Robert Elsmere's suffer- 
ings is too long drawn out. Not a shiver, not a cold or hot fit of 
his, does she spare ns. It is true that he takes our sympathy along 
with him in all that he undergoes, but the demand upon this is too 
prolonged, and the strain too painful. Mrs. Ward's graphic 
power, which is considerable, is weighted and weakened with too 
much detail. She seems to have but little confidence in the 
imagination or memory of her readers, and reminds us of Rose's 
red gold hair and Catharine's beautiful mouth until we tire of 
hearing of them. Her conversations, too, want point, and, though 
she enumerates to'us the books which change Robert Elsmere from 
a simple believer into a rationalist, her writing throws little light 
upon the process of thought by which the change is wrought. 
Here is a genuine, pious Anglican pastor — here is a skeptical 
neighbor with a library full of controversial writings. Presto, 
change — the pastor is no longer a simple Anglican. The Squire 
and the library have entered into him, and he is now another 
than the man he was. The author is here a little open to the 
charge of light-footedness. She does skip easily over the trans- 
formation which she makes awful to the affections, but light to 
the understanding. 

Catherine, in her anguish and distress, asks one pertinent 
question: "Was it right for a clergyman to discuss sacred things 
with such a man ? " the Squire being understood. 

Now, the animus in which investigations are followed plays a 
very important part in their results. An analytical study of the 
Scriptures, aided by the light which learned Orientalists have 
been able to throw upon their character and origin must, of 
necessity, effect a change in the views of one hitherto familiar 
only with the older exegesis. But the results of such a study 
may be arrived at in a religious or in an irreligious spirit. The 
Squire in the story seems to have pursued his researches with 
great intellectual honesty, but with no touch of religious affec- 
tion. Hence, his influence was one which Elsmere should not 
have invited. On the other hand, the conclusions to which the 
latter is led, were the natural outcome of his studies, and the 
catastrophe to which they led was not to be averted. 

Catherine Elsmere's question reminds me of a fragment of 



ROBERT ELSMERE'S MENTAL STRUGGLES. U3 

conversation, reported to me years ago, in which a German skeptic 
said to a devout person of his own nation : 

" My dear sir, I can hring here a friend of mine who in less 
than half an hour will be able to convince you of the futility of 
all notions of a life after death." 

"My dear sir," replied the other, "I am obliged for your 
offer, but I had much rather not see your friend." 

Mr. Gladstone, with practiced hand, makes a very complete 
showing of the side of religious opinion which he has adopted, 
the domain in which belief founds itself upon miracle, and sup- 
ports itself by appealing tp the authority by which the miracle is 
asserted. It does not seem to me that to deduce from the miracle 
the obligation to worship the miracle-worker is to insist upon a 
non-seguitur. Deeds that transcend the working of natural 
laws might be achieved by an evil demon as well as by a good 
one. It is the ethic in Christ which makes us regard His power 
as a holy and beneficent one, and this ethic, this moral miracle of 
the divinely touched soul, is so glorious, so transcendent, that 
those who can truly receive it will consider the historic or legend- 
ary miracles of the New Testament as of very minor importance. 
Religion does not properly consist either in accepting the evidence 
of miracle or in rejecting it, but in adopting and following the 
spirit which made the miracles divine, if they were wrought, 
but which made the beautiful life, with or without miracle, the 
greatest of blessings to mankind. 

Mr. Gladstone does not appear to have much understand- 
ing of the comparative value of different religious ideas. "We 
might somewhat illustrate this by the figure of a series of shelves 
upon which might be bestowed the various items which compose 
the religious heritage of mankind. Among these Fetichism, 
Polytheism, Monotheism correspond to Fear, Favor, and Aspira- 
tion. Mr. Gladstone will hardly deny that this is a rising series, 
and that, while all of those degrees have their period and condi- 
tions of use, it would be irreligious to detain upon the lower level 
those whose minds are capable of attaining the higher one. 

When he has built up before us his church of miracle, evi- 
dence, and authority, we see a church infinitely transcending this 
one in beauty and in charity. The inner interpretation of Christ's 
words and of His character lights it up from within with a heaven- 
descended flame. Once and forever were these golden words 
vol. cxlviii. — no. 386. 8 



114 THE NORTH AMEBIC AN REVIEW. 

said, this divine example given and glorified. We can all say 
that we believe, for we do believe in this intrinsic divineness. 
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but His word shall not pass 
away — the word of deep and everlasting truth. 

It is quite true, as Mr. Gladstone says, or implies, that mat- 
ters so momentous as those of which we now speak, can not be 
settled by the stroke of a pen, or the dash of a character fancy. 
The way out of the labyrinth of doubt is not easy; but I, for one, 
am sure that it should not lead us back into the chaos and con- 
fusion of semi-civilized modes of thought. If we recognize a 
great Providential order in the material development and progress 
of the world, we must recognize it also in the intellectual progress, 
from which, whether we will or no, Society as a whole can not go 
back. Eeligion, as interpreted and followed by the best minds of 
to-day, is an energizing and uplifting agent, whose ministrations 
are essential to the peace, dignity, and welfare alike of individuals 
and of states. Its source, like the source of our own life, is 
hidden and mysterious. Its laws and conditions, like those which 
rule our physical existence, are partly supported by natural in- 
stinct, but much more ascertained and established by the immense 
labors of human study and experience. We pity those whose 
bodily health is committed to the care of physicians who abide by 
the medical formulas of even fifty years ago, and who either can 
not or will not inform themselves of the great changes which 
modern science has wrought in the theory and treatment of 
disease. Not less should we pity those whose spiritual health is 
cared for by men to whom the intellectual advance of the ages 
counts for little or nothing, men who render nugatory the wisdom 
of the past by a trivial and literal interpretation of its great tenta- 
tive and symbolical lessons. 

It was grievous for Robert Elsmere to go out from the sweet 
charities of his parish church. How hard to leave those few sheep 
in the wilderness whom he had lifted out of the mire of degrada- 
tion and set in the way of a clean and Christian life ! How un- 
necessary, in the nature of things, that he should sacrifice this 
near and positive duty to a new set of opinions and theories ! 
Yes, but it was not his fault that he did so. The church in 
which he labored allowed him to serve only on condition that he 
should hold to the old theories and opinions, some of which are 
clearly seen to-day to have been superseded by better ones. As 



ROBERT ELSMERE'S MENTAL STRUGGLES. 115 

Christ was forced to go outside the Jewish church, in order to 
bring a true spiritual interpretation to the Judaic laws and 
prophecies, so is many a mind obliged to break from cherished 
traditions and belongings in order to take its stand upon what it 
can honestly believe in the light of what is known. The further 
progress of our story is instructive. Robert Elsmere, fresh from 
the trammels of a creed to which he can no longer conform, finds 
nothing better to do than to set forward, under other conditions, 
his ministry of religion to the poor and ignorant. His method of 
doing this may or may not be better than those from which he 
has departed, but they are such as his best thought and conscience 
approve, and so his service to God and man is a living, not a 
dead and formal one, and would naturally have for the serving 
and the served the value of the costly sacrifice involved in it. 

Some excellent people, no doubt, to whom these points of con- 
tradiction are very sensible, are yet so held by the sympathy of 
numbers, by the ties of usage and affection, and by what we 
may call a sense of religious necessity, that they adhere to their 
first confession of faith, while all of its articles are changed in 
their private interpretation of it. 

We must remember, too, that, while exegetical study takes 
such men as Elsmere out of the Church of England, it carries 
such men as Newman and Manning into the Church of Rome. 
What shall we say, then? This, simply, that the doors of Christ's 
temple should be left so widely open that those who enter it 
should be able to pass from one part of it to another, and finally 
abide where doctrine and worship best accord with their indi- 
vidual convictions. 

Let our last word, then, be love and honor to the church uni- 
versal, with its many altars and manifold worshipers. Honor to 
its ministers, even where their lessons do not avail alike for all 
of us. On our way to our own place of worship, we can 
thank God for all who are going elsewhere to seek Him in the 
sincerity of the truth as it has been delivered to them. But 
while we do this, let us thank Him most for the prophetic spirits 
which have led the moral advance of the race, for the noble army 
of martyrs who have broken a way for mankind through the 
stony walls of superstition and prejudice. Their bitter task has 
been accomplished in the light of a wide-embracing charity, in 
the faith that the spiritual things of God deserve, not only the 



116 THE NORTH AMEBIC AN REVIEW. 

passive acquiescence of belief, but the energetic assent of reason. 
In this light in which they have walked and worked, let us not 
fear to follow them. 

Julia Waed Howe. 



V.* 

Human nature, when aggrieved, is apt and quick in devising compensations. The 
increasing seriousness and strain of our present life may have had the effect of bring- 
ing about the large preference, which I understand to be exhibited in local public libra- 
ries, for works of fiction. This is the first expedient of revenge. But it is only a link 
in a chain. The next step is, that the writers of what might be grave books, in esse 
or in posse, have endeavored with some success to circumvent the multitude. 
Those who have systems or hypotheses to recomend in philosophy, conduct or 
religion induct them into the costume of romance. Such was the second 
expedient of nature, the counterstroke of her revenge. When this was done 
n " Telemaque," " Kasselas," or " Coelebs," it was not without literary effect. 
Even the last of these three appears to have been successful with its own genera- 
tion. It would now be deemed intolerably dull. But a dull book is easily renounced. 
The more didactic fictions of the present day, so far as I know them, are not dull. 
We take them up, however, and we find that, when we meant to go to play 
we have gone to school. The romance is a gospel of some philosophy, or of some 
religion ; and requires sustained thought on many or some of the deepest subjects as 
the only rational alternative to placing ourselves at the mercy of our author. We 
find that he has put upon us what is not indeed a treatise, but more formidable than 
if it were. For a treatise must nowhere beg the question it seeks to decide, but must 
carry its reader onward by reasoning patiently from step to step. But the writer of 
the romance, under the convenient necessity which his form imposes, skips in 
thought, over undefined distances, from stage to stage, as a bee from flower to 
flower. A creed may (as here) be accepted in a sentence, and then abandoned in a 
page. But we, the common herd of readers, if we are to deal with the consequences, 
to accept or repel the influence of the book, must, as in a problem of mathematics 
supply the missing steps. Thus, in perusing as we ought a propogandist romance, 
we must terribly increase the pace ; and it is the pace that kills. 

Among the works to which the preceding remarks might apply, the most remark- 
able within my knowledge is " Robert Elsmere." It is indeed remarkable in many re- 
spects. It is a novel of nearly twice the length, and much more than twice the mat- 
ter, of ordinary novels. It dispenses almost entirely, in the construction of what must 
still be called its plot, with the aid of incident in the ordinary sense. We have indeed 
near the close a solitary individual crushed by a wagon, but this catastrophe has no 
relation to the plot, and its only purpose is to exhibit a good death bed in illustration 
of the great missionary idea of the piece. The nexus of the structure is to be found 
wholly in the workings of character. The assumption and the surrender of a 
rectory are the most salient events, and they are simple results of what 
the actor has thought right. And yet the great, nay, paramount foun- 
tion of character-drawing, the projection upon the canvas of human beings 
endowed with the true forces of nature and vitality, does not appear to be by any 
means the master-gift of the authoress. In the mass of matter which she has prod- 
igally expended there might obviously be retrenchment ; for there are certain laws 
of dimension which apply to a novel, and which separate it from an epic. In the 

* As several of the contributors to this symposium have referred to Mr. Gladstone's masterly 
review of "Robert Elsmere, "recently published in England, I have been tempted to complete 
this collection of views by the addition to it of Mr. Gladstone's essay.— Emtob. 



ROBEBT ELSMERES MENTAL STRUGGLES. 117 

extraordinary number of personages brought upon the stage in one portion or other 
of the book, there are some which are elaborated with greater pains and more detail 
than their relative importance seems to warrant. " Robert Elsmere" is hard reading, 
and requires toil and effort. Yet, if it be difficult to persist, it is impossible to stop. 
The prisoner on the treadmill must work severely to perform his task ; but if he 
tops he at once receives a blow which brings him to his senses. Here, as there, it is 
human infirmity which shrinks ; but here, as not there, the propelling motive is 
within. Deliberate judgment and deep interest alike rebuke a fainting reader. The 
strength of the book, overbearing every obstacle, seems to lie in an extraordinary 
wealth of diction, never separated from thought ; in a close and searching faculty of 
social observation ; in generous appreciation of what is morally good, impartially* 
exhibited in all directions : above all, in the sense of mission with which the writer 
is evidently possessed, and in the earnestness and persistency of purpose with which 
through every page and line it is pursued. The book is eminently an offspring of the 
time, and will probably make a deep or at least a very sensible impression; not, how- 
ever, among mere novel readers, but among those who share, in whatever sense, the 
deeper thought of the period. 

The action begins in a Westmoreland valley, where the three young daughters 
of a pious clergyman are grouped around a mother infirm in health and without 
force of mind. All responsibility devolves accordingly upon Catherine, the eldest of 
the three ; a noble character, living only for duty and affection. When the ear 
heard her, then it blessed her ; and when the eye saw her, it gave witness to her. 
Here comes upon the scene Robert Elsmere, the eponymist and hero of the book, and 
the ideal, almost the idol, of the authoress. 

He had been brought up at Oxford, in years when the wholesale discomfiture of 
the great religious movement in the University, which followed upon the secession 
of Cardinal Newman, had been in its turn succeeded by a new religious reac- 
tion. The youth had been open to the personal influences of a tutor, 
who is in the highest degree beautiful, classical, and indifferentist ; 
and of a noble-minded rationalizing teacher, whose name, Mr. Grey, is the 
thin guise of another name, and whose lofty character, together with his gifts 
and with the tendencies of the time, had made him a power in Oxford. But, in its 
action on a nature of devout susceptibilities as well as active talents, the place is 
stronger than the man, and Robert casts in his lot with the ministry of the church. 
Let us stop at this point to notice the terms used. At St. Mary's " the sight and the 
experience touched hisinmost feeling, and satisfied all the poetical and dramatic in- 
stincts of a passionate nature." He " carried his religious passion . . . into the 
service of the great positive tradition around him." This great and commonly life, 
governing decision is taken under the influence of f orces.wholly emotional. It is first 
after the step taken that we have an inkling of any reason for it. This is not an iso- 
lated phenomenon. It is a key to the entire action. The work may be summed up in 
this way : It represents a battle between intellect and emotion. Of right, intellect 
wins; and, having won, enlists emotion in its service. 

Elsmere breaks upon us in Westmoreland, prepared to make the great commis- 
sion the business of his life, and to spend and be spent in it to the uttermost. He is 
at once attracted by Catherine; attention forthwith ripens into love; and love finds 
expression in a proposal. But, with a less educated intelligence, the girl has a pur- 
pose of life not less determined than the youth. She believes herself to have an 
outdoor vocation in the glen, and above all an indoor vocation in her family, of which 
she is the single prop. A long battle of love ensues, fought out with noi less ability, 
and with even greater tenacity, than the remarkable conflict of intellects, carried on 
by correspondence, which ended in the marriage between Mr. and Mrs. Carlyle. The 
resolute tension of the two minds has many phases; and a double crisis, first of 
refusal, secondly of acceptance. This part of the narrative wrought 

* Mrs. Ward has given evidence of this impartiality in her Dedication to the memory of two 
friends, of whom one, Mrs. Alfred Lyttleton, lived and died unshaken in belief. The other is 
more or less made known in the pages of the work. 



118 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

out in detail with singular skill, will probably be deemed the 
most successful, the most normal, of the whole. It is thoroughly noble on both sides. 
The final surrender of Catherine is in truth an opening of the eyes to a wider view of 
the evolution of the individual, and of the great vocation of life ; and it involves no 
disparagement. The garrison evacuates the citadel, but its arms have not been laid 
down, and its colors are flying still. 

So the pair settle themselves in a family living, full of the enthusiasm of human- 
ity, which is developed with high energy in every practical detail, and based upon 
the following of the Incarnate Saviour. Equipped thus far with all that renders life 
desirable, their union is blessed by the birth of a daughter, and everything thrives 
around them for the formation of an ideal parish. 

But the parish is adorned by a noble old English mansion, and the mansion in- 
habited by a wealthy Squire, who knows little of duty, but is devoted to incessant 
study. As an impersonated intellect, he is abreast of all modern inquiry, and, a 
"Tractarian " in his youth, he has long abandoned all belief. At the outset, he resents 
profoundly the Rector's obtrusive concern for his neglected tenantry. But the cour- 
age of the clergyman is not to be damped by isolation, and in the case of a scan- 
dalously insanitary hamlet, after an adequate number of deaths, Mr. Wendover puts 
aside the screen called his agent, and rebuilds with an ample generosity. This sud- 
den and complete surrender seems to be introduced to glorify the hero of the work, 
for it does not indicate any permanent change in the social ideas of Mr. Wendover, 
but only in his relations to his clergyman . 

There is, however, made ready for him a superlative revenge. Robert has 
enjoyed the use of his rich library, and the two hold literary communications, but 
with a compact of silence on matters of belief. This treaty is honorably observed by 
the Squire. But the clergyman invites his fate. Mr. Wendover makes known to him a 
great design for a "History of Testimony," worked out through many centuries. Tho 
book speaks indeed of " the long wrestle " of the two men, and the like. But of Els- 
mere's wrestling there is no other trace or sign. What weapons the Rector wielded 
for his faith, what strokes he struck, has not even in a single line been recorded. The 
discourse of the Squire points out that theologians are men who decline to examine 
evidence, that miracles are the invention of credulous ages, that the preconceptions 
sufficiently explain the results. He wins in a canter. There cannot surely be a more 
curious contrast than that between the real battle, fought in a hundred rounds, be- 
tween Elsmere and Catherine on marriage, and the fictitious battle between Elsmere 
and the Squire on the subject of religion, where the one side is a peean, and the other 
a blank. A great creed, with the testimony of eighteen centuries at its back, cannot 
find an articulate word to say in its defense, and the downfall of the scheme of belief 
shatters also, and of right, the highly-ordered scheme of life that had nestled 
in the Rectory of Murewell, as it still does in thousands of other English parsonages. 

It is notable that Elsmere seeks, in this conflict with the Squire, no aid or counsel 
whatever. He encounters indeed by chance Mr. Neweome. a Ritualistic clergyman- 
whom the generous sympathies of the authoress place upon the roll of his friends. 
But the language of Mr. Neweome offers no help to this understanding. It is this: 

*' Trample on yourself. Pray down the demon, fast, scourge, kill the body that the soul 
may live. What are we miserable worms, that we should defy the Most High, that we should 
set our wretched faculties against His Omnipotence?" 

Mr. Neweome appears everywhere as not only a respectable but a remark 
able character. But as to what he says here, how much does it amount to? 
Considered as a medicine for a mind diseased, for an unsettled, dislo- 
cated soul, is it less or more than pure nonsense? In the work of an 
insidious non-believer, it would be set down as a part of his fraud. Mrs. Ward evi- 
dently gives it in absolute good faith. It is one in a series of indications by which 
this gifted authoress conveys to us what appears to be her thoroughly genuine belief 
that historical Christianity has, indeed, broad grounds and deep roots in emotion, but 
in reason none whatever. 

The revelation to the wife is terrible ; but Catherine clings to her religion on a 



ROBERT ELSMERE'S MENTAL STRUGGLES. 119 

basis essentially akin to that of Newcome ; and the faith of these eighteen centuries, 
and the prime countries of the world, 

" Bella, immortal, benefica 
Fede, ai trionfl avvezza," 

is dismissed without a hearing. 

For my own part, I humbly retort on Robert Elsmere. Considered intellectually, 
his proceedings in regard to belief appear to me, from the beginning as well as in the 
downward process, to present dismal gaps. But the emotional part of his character 
is complete, nay redundant. There is no moral weakness or hesitation. There rises 
up before him the noble maxim, assigned to the so-called Mr. Grey (with whom he 
has a consultation of foregone conclusions), " Conviction is the conscience of the 
mind." 

He renounces his parish and his orders. He still believes in God, and accepts the 
historical Christ as a wonderfnl man, good among the good, but the primus inter 
pares. Passing through a variety of stages, he devotes himself to the religion of 
humanity; reconciles to the new gospels, by shoals, skilled artisans of London who 
had been totally inaccessible to the old one; and nobly kills himself with overwork, 
passing.away in a final flood of light. He founds and leaves behind him the "New 
Christian Brotherhood " of Elgood Street; and we are at the close iapprised, with en- 
thusiastic sincerity, that this is the true effort of the race, and 

** Others I doubt not, if not we, 
The issue of our toils shall see." 

Who can grudge to this absolutely pure-minded and very distinguished writer the 
comfort of having at last found the true specific for the evils and miseries of the 
world ? None surely who bear in mind that the Salvation Army has been known 
to proclaim itself the Chucrh of the future, or who happen to know that Bunsen, 
when in 1841 he had procured the foundation of the bishopric of Jerusalem, suggested 
in private correspondence his hope that this might be the Church which would meet 
the glorified Redeemer at His coming. 

It is necessary here to revert to the Squire. Himself the fioiptx TCeitpoonevr), 
the supreme arbiter of destinies in the book, he is somewhat unkindly treated ; his 
mind at length gives way, and a darkling veil is drawn over the close. Here seems 
to be a little literary intolerance, something even savoring of a religious test. 
Robert Elsmere stopped in the downward slide at theism, and it calms and glorifies 
his deathbed. But the Squire had not stopped there. He had said to Elsmere, "You 
are playing into the hands of the Blacks. All this theistic philosophy of yours only 
means so much grist to their mill in the end." But their great guide is dismissed 
from his guiding office as summarily as all other processes are conducted, which are 
required by the purpose of the writer. Art everywhere gives way to purpose. Els- 
mere no more shows cause for his theism than he had shown it against Christianity. 
Why was not Mr. Wendover allowed at least the consolations which give satisfaction 
to David Hume ? 

Not yet, however, may I wholly part from this sketch of the work. It is so large 
that much must be omitted. But there is one limb of the plan which is peculiar. Of 
the two sisters not yet named, one, Agnes by name, appears only as quasi-chaperon, 
or as " dummie." But Rose, the third, has beauty, the gift of a musical artist, and 
quick and plastic social faculties. Long and elaborate love relations are developed 
between her and the poco-curante tutor and friend, Mr. Langham. Twice she is 
fairly embarked in passion for him, and twice he jilts her. Still she is not discour- 
aged, and she finally marries a certain Flaxman, an amiable, but somewhat manu- 
factured character. From the standing point of art, can this portion of the book 
fail to stir much misgiving ? We know from Shakespeare how the loves of two sis- 
ters can be comprised within a single play. But while the drama requires only one 
connected action, the novel, and eminently this novel, aims rather at the exhibition 
of a life ; and the reader of these volumes may be apt to say that in working two 
such lives as those of Catherine and Rose through so many stages, the authoress has 



120 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

departed from previous example, and has loaded her ship, though a gallant one, with 
more cargo than it will bear. 

It may indeed be that Mrs. Ward has been led to charge her tale with such ;a 
weight of matter from a desire to give philosophical completeness to her representa- 
tion of the mainsprings of action which mark the life of the period. For in Robert 
Elsmere we have the tempered but aggressive action of the sceptical intellect ; in 
Catharine the strong reaction against it ; in Rose the art-life ; and in Langham the 
literary and cultivated indifference of the time. The comprehensiveness of such a 
picture may be admitted, without withdrawing the objection that, as a practical 
result, the cargo is too heavy for the vessel. 

Apart from this question, is it possible to pass without a protest the double jilt % 
Was Rose, with her quick and self-centred life, a well-chosen corpus vile upon whom 
to pass this experiment? More broadly, though credible perhaps for a man, is such a 
process in any case possible by the laws of art for a woman ? Does she not violate 
the first conditions of her nature in exposing herself to so piercing an insult ? An 
enhancement of delicate self-respect is one among the compensations which Provi- 
dence has supplied in woman to make up for a deficiency in some ruder kinds of 
strength. 

Again, I appeal to the laws of art against the final disposal of Catherine. Hav- 
ing much less of ability than her husband, she is really drawn with greater force and 
truth; and possesses so firm a fibre that when, having been bred in a school of some 
intolerance, she begins to blunt the edge of her resistance, and to tolerate .in divers 
ways, without adopting, the denuded system of her husband, we begin to feel that 
the key-note of her character is being tampered with. After his death, the discords 
become egregious. She remains, as she supposes orthodox, and tenaciously 
Evangelical. But every knee must be made to bow to Elsmere. So 
she does not return to the northern valley and her mother's declining 
age, but in London devotes her week-days to carrying on the institutions 
of charity he had founded on behalf of his new religion. He had himself in- 
dignantly remonstrated with some supposed clergyman, who, in the guise of a 
Broad Churchman, at once held Elsmere's creed and discharged externally the office 
of an Anglican priest. He therefore certainly is not responsible for having taught 
her to believe the chasm between them was a narrow one. Yes she leaps or steps 
across it every Sunday, attending her church in the forenoon, and looming as regu- 
larly every afternoon in the temple of the New Brotherhood. Here surely the claims 
of system have marred the work of art. Characters might have been devised whom 
this see-saw would have suited well enough ; but for the Catherine of the first volume 
it is an unmitigated solecism ; a dismal, if not even a degrading compromise. 

It has been observed that the women of the book are generally drawn with more 
felicity than the men. As a work of art, Rose is in my view the most successful of 
the women, and among the men the Squire. With the Squire Mrs. Ward is not in 
sympathy, for he destroys too much, and he does nothing but destroy. She cannot 
be in sympathy with Rose ; for Rose, who is selfishly and heartlessly used, is herself 
selfish and heartless ; with this aggravation, that she has grown up in immediate 
contact with a noble elder sister, and yet has not caught a particle of nobleness, as 
well as in view of an infirm mother to whom she scarcely gives a care. On the other 
hand, in her Robert, who has all'Mrs. Ward's affection and almost her worship, and 
who is clothed with a perfect panoply of high'qualities, she appears to be less success, 
ful and more artificial. In the recently published correspondence of Sir Henry 
Taylor, who was by no means given to paradox, we are told that great earnestness 
of purpose and strong adhesive sympathies in an author are adverse to 
the freedom and independence of treatment, the disembarrassed move- 
ment of the creative hand, which are required in the supreme poetic 
office of projecting character on the canvas. If there be truth in this 
novel and interesting suggestion, we cannot wonder at finding the result 
exhibited in "Robert Elsmere, "for never was a book written with greater persistency 
and intensity of purpose. Every page of its principal narrative is adapted and 
addressed by Mrs. Ward to the final aim which is bone of her bone and flesh of her 
flesh. This aim is to expel the preternatural element from Christianity, to destroy 



ROBERT ELSMERE'S MENTAL STRUGGLES. 121 

its dogmatic structure, yet to keep intact the moral and spiritual results. The 
Brotherhood presented to us with such sanguine hopefulness is a " Christian" brother, 
hood, but with a Christianity emptied of that which Christians believe to be the soul 
and springhead of its life. For Christianity, in the established Christian sense, is the 
presentation to us not of abstract dogmas for acceptance, but of a living and 
a Divine Person, to whom they are to be united by a vital incorporation. It is the 
reunion to God of a nature severed from God by sin, and the process is one, not of 
teaching lessons, but of imparting a new life, with its ordained equipment of gifts 
and powers. 

It is, I apprehend, a complete mistake to suppose, as appears to be the supposi- 
tion of this remarkable book, that all which has to be done with Scripture, in order 
to effect the desired transformation of religion, is to eliminate from it the miracu- 
lous element. Tremendous as is the sweeping process with extrudes the Resurrec- 
tion, there is much else, which is in no sense miraculous, to extrude along with it. 
The Procession of Palms, for example, is indeed profoundly significant, but it is in no 
way miraculous. Yet, in any consistent history of a Robert Elsmere'8 Christ, 
there could be no Procession of Palms. Unless it be the healing of 
the ear of Malchus, there is not a miraculous event between the commencement 
of the Passion and the Crucifixion itself. Yet the notes of a superhuman majesty 
overspread the whole. We talk of all religions as essentially one ; but what religion 
presents to its votaries such a tale as this ? Bishop Temple, in his sermons at Rugby, 
has been among the later teachers who have shown how the whole behavior of our 
Lord, in this extremity of His abasement, seems more than ever to transcend all hu- 
man limits, and to exhibit without arguing His Divinity. The parables, again, are 
not less refractory than the miracles, and must disappear along with them; for what 
parables are there which are not built upon the idea of his unique and transcendent 
office ? The Gospel of St. John has much less of miracle than the Synoptics ; but it 
must, of course, descend from its pedestal, in all that is most its own. And what is 
gained by all this condemnation, until we get rid of the Baptismal formula ? It is 
a question not of excision from the gospels, but of tearing them into shreds. Far be 
it from me to deny that the parts which remain, or which remain legible, are vital 
parts ; but this is no more than to say that there may remain vital organs of a man 
after the man himself has been cut in pieces. 

I have neither space nor capacity at command for the adequate discussion of the 
questions which shattered the faith of Robert Elsmere: whether miracles can 
happen, and whether " an universal preconception" in their favor at the birth of 
Christianity " governing the work of all men of all schools," adequately accounts for 
the place which has been given to them in the New Testament, as available proofs of 
the Divine Mission of our Lord. But I demur on all the points to the authority of the 
Squire, and even of Mr. Grey. 

The impossibility of miracle is a doctrine which appears to claim for its basis the 
results of physical inquiry. They point to unbroken sequences in material nature, 
and refer every phenomenon to its immediate antecedent as adequate to its orderly 
production. But the appeal to this great achievement of our time is itself disorderly, 
for it calls upon natural science to decide a question which lies beyond its precinct. 
There is an extraneous force of will which acts upon matter in derogation of laws 
purely physical, or alters the balance of those laws among themselves. It can be 
neither philosophical nor scientific to proclaim the impossibility of miracle, until 
philosophy or science shall have determined a limit, be yond which this extraneous 
force of will, so familiar to our experience, cannot act upon ordeflect the natural 
order. 

Next, as to that avidity for miracle, which is supposed by the omniscient Squire 
to account for the invention of it. Let it be granted, for argument's sake, that if the 
Gospel had been intended only for the Jews, they at least were open to the imputa- 
tion of a Massing and binding appetite for signs and wonders. But scarcely had the 
Christian scheme been established among the Jews, when it began to take root 
among the Gentiles. It will hardly be contended that these Gentiles, who detested 
and despised the Jewish race, had any predisposition to receive a religion at their 
hands or upon their authority. Were they, then, during the century which sue- 



122 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

ceeded our Lord's birth, so swayed by a devouring thirst for the supernatural as to 
account for the early reception, and the steady if not rapid growth, of the Christian 
creed among them ? The statement fof the Squire, which carries Robert Elsmere, is 
that the preconception in favor of miracles at the period " governed the work of all 
men of all schools."* A most gross and palpable exaggeration. In philosophy the 
Epicurean school was atheistic, the Stoic school ambiguously theistic, and doubt 
nestled in the Academy. Christianity had little direct contact with these schools, 
but they acted on the tone of thought, in a manner not favorable but adverse to the 
preconception. 

Meantime the power of religion was in decay. The springs of it in the general 
mind and heart were weakened. A deluge of profligacy has gone far to destroy, 
at Rome, even the external habit of public worship ; and Horace, himself an in- 
differentest,t denounces the neglect and squalor of the temples ; while further on we 
have the stern and emphatic testimony of Juvenal : 

" Esse aliquid Manes, et subterranea regna, 
Et contuin, et Stygio ranas In gurgite nigras, 
Nee pueri credunt, nisi qui nondum jere lavantur."$ 

The age was not an age of faith, among thinking and ruling classes, either in natural 
or in supernatural religion. There had been indeed a wonderful " evangelical pre- 
paration " in the sway of the Greek language, in the unifying power of the Roman 
State and Empire, and in the utter moral failure of the grand and dominant civiliza- 
tion ; but not in any virgin soil, yearning for the sun, the rain, or the seed of truth. 

But the Squire, treading in the footprints of Gibbon's fifteenth chapter, leaves it 
to be understood that, in the appeal to the supernatural, the new religion enjoyed an 
exclusive as well as an overpowering advantage ; that it had a patent for miracle, 
which none could infringe. Surely this is an error even more gross than the state- 
ment already cited about all men of all schools. The supernatural was interwoven 
with the entire fabric of the religion of the Roman State, which if weak and effete as 
a religious discipline, was of extraordinary power as a social institution. It stood, if 
not on faith yet on nationality, on tradition, on rich endowments, on the deeply in- 
terested attachment of a powerful aristocracy, and on that policy of wide concillia- 
tion, which give to so many creeds, less exclusive than the Christian, a cause com- 
mon with its own. 

Looking for a comprehensive description of miracles, we might say that they con- 
stitute a language of heaven embodied in material signs,by which communication is es- 
tablished between the Deity and man, outside the daily course of nature and experi- 
ence. Distinctions may be taken between one kind of miracle and another. But none 
of these are distinctions in principle. Sometimes they are alleged to be the offspring 
of a divine power committed to the hands of particular men ; sometimes they are 
simple manifestations unconnected with human agency, and carrying with them 
their own meaning, such as the healings in Bethesda ; sometimes they are a system 
of events and of phenomena subject to the authoratative and privileged interpreta- 
tion. Miracle, portent, prodigy and sign are all various forms of one and the same thing, 
namely, an invasion of the known and common natural order from the side of the 
supernatural. In the last-named case, there is an expression of the authorized human 
judgment upon it, while in the earlier ones there is only a special appeal to it. They 
rest upon one and the same basis. We may assign to miracle a body and a souL It 
has for its body something accepted as being either in itself or in its incidents out- 
side the known processes of ordinary nature, and for its soul the alleged message 
which in one shape or another it helps to convey from the Deity to man. This su- 
pernatural element, as such, was at least as familiar to the Roman heathenism as to 
the Christian scheme. It was indeed more highly organized. It was embodied in 
the regular and normal practice of the ministers of religion, and especially under the 
jurisdiction of the pontifical college, it was the regular and standing business of the 
augurs to observe, report and interpret the supernatural signs, by which the gods 
gave reputed instructions to men outside the course of nature. Sometimes it 

* 817. + Hor. " Od.," i. 84; iii. 6. J " Sat," 11. 150, 



ROBERT ELSMERE'S MENTAL STRUGGLES. 123 

was by strange atmospheric phenomena ; sometimes by physical prodigies as when a 
woman produced a snake,* or a calf was born with its head in its thigh ;t whereupon, 
says Tacitus secuta haruspicum interpretatio. Sometimes through events only 
preternatural from the want of assignable cause, as when the statue of Julius Caesar, 
on an island in the Tiber, turned itself round from west to east. J Sometimes with an 
approximation to the Christian signs and wonders, as when Vespasian removed with 
spittle the tabes oculorum, and restored the impotent hand.§ It does not readily 
appear why in principle the Romans, who had the supernatural for their daily food in 
a shape sustained by the unbroken tradition of their country, should be violently 
attracted by the mere exhibition of it from a despised source, and in a manner less 
formal, less organized and less known. In one important way we know the accepted 
supernatural of the Romans operated with direct and telling power against the 
Gospel. Si caelum stetit, si terra movit, Christianos ad leones.W Or, in the unsus- 
pected language of Tacitus, dum latius metuitur, trepidatioTie vulgi, invalidus 
quisque obtriti. When the portents were unfavorable, and there was fear of their 
extension, the weak had to suffer from the popular alarms.1T 

The upshot of the matter then appears to be something like this : 

The lowly and despised preachers of Christian portent were confronted every- 
where by the high-born and accomplished caste sworn to the service of the gods, 
familiar from centuries of tradition with the supernatural, and supported at every 
point with the whole force and influence of civil authority. Nor has there ever prob- 
ably been a case of a contest so unequal, as far as the powers of this world are 
concerned. Tainted in its origin by its connection with the detested Judaism, 
odious to the prevailing tone by its exclusiveness, it rested originally upon 
the testimony of men few, poor, and ignorant, and for a length of time no 
human genius was enlisted in its service, with the single exception of St. Paul. All 
that we of this nineteenth century know, and know so well, under the name of vested 
interests, is insignificant compared with the embattled fortress that these humble 
Christians had to storm. And the Squire, if he is to win the day with minds less ripe 
for conversion than Robert Elsmere, must produce some other suit of weapons from 
his armory. 

With him I now part company, as his thorough-going negation parts company 
with the hybrid scheme of Mrs. Ward. It is of that scheme that I now desire to take 
a view Immediately practical. 

In a concise but striking notice in the Times'* it is placed in the category of "clever 
attacks upon revealed religion." It certainly offers us a substitute for revealed relig- 
ion; and possibly the thought of the book might be indicated in these words: " The 
Christianity accepted in England is a good thing; but come with me, and I will show 
you a better." 

It may, I think, be fairly described as a devout attempt, made in good faith, to 
simplify the difficult mission of religion in the world by discarding the supposed lumber 
of the Christian theology, while retaining and applying, in their undiminished breadth 
of scope, the whole personal, social, and spiritual morality which has now, as matter 
of fact, entered into the patrimony of Christendom ; and, since Christendom is the 
dominant power of the world, into the patrimony of the race. It is impossible 
indeed to conceive a more religious life than the later life of Robert Elsmere, 
in his sense of the word religion. And that sense is far above the sense 
hi which religion is held, or practically applied, by great multitudes of 
Christians. It is, however, a new form of religion. The question is, can it 
be actually and beneficially substituted for the old one ? It abolishes of course the 
whole authority of Scripture. It abolishes also Church, priesthood or ministry, 
sacraments, and the whole established machinery which trains the Christian as a 
member of religious society. These have been regarded by fifty generations of men 
as wings of the soul. It is still required by Mrs. Ward to fly, and to fly as 
high as ever ; but it is to fly without wings. For baptism, we have a badge of silver, 
and inscription in a book. For the Eucharist there is an ordinary meal, a recital of 

»Tac. "Ann., xiv. 12. t Ibid., xv. 47. tTac. " Hist.," i. 86. §Ibid, iv. 81. IITertulL 
" Apol.," 40. f Tac. " Ann.," xii. 43. ** " Times," April 7, 1888. 



124 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

the fragment, " This do In remembrance of Me." The children respond, * Jesus we 
remember Thee always." It Is hard to say that prayer Is retained. In the Elgood 
Street service " it is rather an act of adoration and faith, than a prayer properly so 
called," and it appears that memory and trust are the instruments on which the in- 
dividual is to depend, for maintaining his communion with God. It would be curious 
to know how the New Brotherhood is to deal with the great mystery of marriage, 
perhaps the truest touch-stone of religious revolution. 

It must be obvious to every reader that in the great duel between the old faith 
and the new, as it is fought in " Robert Elsmere," there is a great inequality in the 
distribution of the arms. Reasoning is the weapon of the new scheme ; emotion the 
sole source of the old. Neither Catherine nor Newcome have a word to say beyond 
the expression of feeling; and it is when he has adopted the negative side that the 
hero himself is fully introduced to the faculty of argument. This is a singular 
arrangement, especially in the case of a writer who takes a generous view of the 
Christianity that she only desires to supplant by an improved device. The explana- 
tion may be simple. There are abundant signs in the book that the negative specula- 
tists have been consulted if not ransacked ; but there is nowhere a sign that the author- 
ress has made herself acquainted with the Christian apologists, old or recent; or has 
weighed the evidences derivable from the Christian history ; or has taken measure 
of the relation in which the doctrines of grace have historically stood to the pro- 
duction of the noblest, purest, and greatest characters of the Christian ages. If 
such be the case, she has skipped lightly (to put it no higher) over vast mental spaces 
of literature and learning relevant to the ease, and has given sentence in the cause 
without hearing the evidence. 

It might perhaps be not unjust to make a retort upon the authoress, and say that 
while she believes herself simply to be yielding obedience to reason, her movement 
is in reality impelled by bias. We have been born into an age when, in the circles 
of literature and science, there is a strong anti-dogmatic leaning, a prejudice which 
may largely intercept the action of judgment. Partly because belief has its super- 
stitions, and the detection of these superstitions opens the fabric to attack, like 
a breach in the wall of a fortress when at a given point it has been stuffed 
with unsound material. Partly because the rapidity of the movement of the 
time predisposes the mind to novelty. Partly because the multiplication of 
enjoyments, through the progress of commerce and invention, enhances the 
materialism of life, strengthens by the forces of habit the hold of the seen 
world upon us, and leaves both less of brain-power and of heart-power 
available for the unseen. Enormous accretion of wealth is no more deprived 
of its sting now than it was when St. Paul penned his profoundly penetrating 
admonition to Timothy.* And when, under the present conditions, it happens that 
the environment of personal association represents either concentrated hostility or 
hopeless diversity in religion, there may be hardly a chance for firm and measured 
belief. What we find to be troublesome, yet from some inward protest are not pre- 
pared wholly to reject, we like to simplify and reduce ; and the instances of good and 
devoted men who are averse to dogma, more frequent than usual in this age, are 
powerful to persuade us that in lightening the cargo we are really securing the safe 
voyage of the ship. "About dogma we hear dispute, but the laws of high social 
morality no speculation is disposed to question. Why not get rid of the disputable, 
and concentrate all our strength on grasping the undisputed?" We may by a little 
wresting quote high authority for this recommendation. " Whereto we have already 
attained ... let us mind the same thing . . . And if in anything ye be other- 
wise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you."t It is not difficult to conceive 
how, under the action of causes with which the time abounds, pure and lofty minds, 
wholly guiltless of the intention to impair or lower the motive forces of Christianity, 
maybe led into the snare, and may even conceive a process in itself destructive to be, 
on the contrary, conservative and reparatory. 

But it is a snare none the less. And first let us recollect, when we speak of re- 
nouncing Christian dogma, what it is that we mean. The germ of it as a system lies 

»1 Tim. iv. 9. tPhil.. iii. 15, 16. 



ROBERT ELSMERE'S MENTAL STRUGGLES. 125 

In the f ornrala, " Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of 
the Holy Ghost."* This was speedily developed into the substance of the Apostles' 
Creed : the Creed which forms our confession of individual faith, in baptism and on 
the bed of death. Now belief in God, which forms (so to speak) the first great limb of 
the Creed, is strictly a dogma, and is on no account, according to Mrs. Ward, to be 
surrendered. But the second and greatest portion of the Creed contains twelve propo" 
sitions, of which nine are matters of fact, and the whole twelve have for their office the 
setting forth to us of a Personage, to whom a great dispensation has been committed. 
The third division of the Creed is more dogmatic, but it is bound down like the sec- 
ond to earth and fact by the article of the Church, a visible and palpable institution. 
The principal purely dogmatic part of this great document is the part which is to be 
retained. And we, who accept the Christian story, are entitled to say, that to ex- 
trude from a history, tied to strictly human facts, that by which they become a 
standing channel of organic connection between Deity and humanity, is not pre- 
sumptively a very hopeful mode of strengthening our belief in God, thus deprived of 
its props and accessories. The chasm between deity and the human soul, over which 
the scheme of Redemption has thrown a bridge, again yawns beneath our feet, in all 
its breadth and depth. 

Although the Divinity of Christ is not put prominently forward in this book, but 
rather the broader objection to supernatural manifestations, yet it will be found to 
be the real hinge of the entire question. For, if Christ be truly God, few will deny 
that the exceptional incidents, which follow in the train of His appearance upon 
earth, raise, in substance, no new difficulty. It is true, then, that Christians have 
been so divided on this subject as to promise us a return of peace and progress by its 
elimination. 

To answer this question rightly, we must not take the humor of this or that par- 
ticular time or country, but must regard the Christian system in its whole extension 
and its whole duration. So regarding it, we shall find that the assertion, far from 
being true, is glaringly untrue. The truth in rude outline is surely this. That when 
the Gospel went out into the world, the greatest of all the groups 
of controversies which progressively arose within its borders, was that 
which concerned the true nature of the Object of worship. That these 
controversies ran through the most important shapes, which have been 
known to the professing Church of later years, and through many 
more. That they rose, especially in the fourth century, to such a 
height, amidst the conflict of councils, popes, and theologians, that the private 
Christian was too often like the dove wandering over the waters and seeking in vain 
a resting-place for the sole of his foot. That the whole mind and heart of the Church 
were given, in their whole strength and through a lengthened period, to find some 
solution of these controversies. That many generations passed before Arianism 
wholly ceased to be the basis of Christian profession in spots or sections of Chris- 
tendom, but not so long before the central thought of the body as a whole had come 
to be fixed in the form of what has ever since, and now for over fourteen hundred 
years, been known as the orthodox belief. The authority of this tradition, based upon 
the Scriptures, has through all that period been upheld at the highest point to which 
a marvelous continuity and universality could raise it. It was not impeached by the 
questioning mind of the thirteenth century. The scientific revolution, which opened to 
us the antipodes and the solar system, did not shake it. The subtle dangers of the Re- 
naissance were dangers to Christianity as a whole, but not to this great element of 
Christianity as a part. And when the terrible struggles of the Reformation stirred 
every coarse human passion as well as every fond religious interest into fury, even 
then the Nicene belief, as Mohler in his "Symbolik" has so well observed, sat undis- 
turbed in a region elevated above the controversies of the time; which only touched 
it at points so exceptional, and comparatively so obscure, as not appreciably to 
qualify its majestic authority. A Christianity without Christ is no Christianity; 
and a Christ not divine is other than the Christ on whom the souls of Christians have 
habitually fed. What virtue, what piety have existed outside of Christianity, is a 

* St, Matt, xxviii. 19. 



126 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

question totally distinct. But to hold that, since the great controversy of the early 
time was wound up at Chalcedon, the question of our Lord's divinity (which draws 
after it all that Robert Elsmere would excide), has generated the storm3 of the 
Christian atmosphere, would be simply an historical untruth. How, then, is the work 
of peace to be promoted by the excision of truth from our creed of that central truth, 
on which we are generally agreed ? 

The onward movement of negation in the present day has presented, perhaps, no 
more instructive feature than this, that the Unitarian persuasion has, in this country 
at least, by no means thriven upon it. It might have been thought that, in the pro- 
cess of dilapidation, here would have been a point at which the receding side tide of 
belief would have rested at any rate for a while. But instead of this, we are in- 
formed that the numbers of professed Unitarians have increased less than those of 
other communions, and less than the natural growth of the population. And we find 
Mrs. Ward herself describing the old Unitarian scheme as one wholly destitute of 
logic ; but in what respect she improves upon it I have not yet perceived. 

In order to invest any particular propagandises with a show of presumptive 
title to our acceptance, its author should be able to refer it to some standard of appeal 
which will show that it has foundations otherwise than in mere private judgment 
or active imagination. The books of the New Testament I understand to be, for Mrs. 
Ward, of no value except for the moral precepts they contain. Still less may we 
invoke the authority of the Old Testament, where the ethical picture is more 
chequered. She finds no spell in the great moral miracle (so to phrase it) of the 
Psalms; nor in the marvelous propaidei a of the Jewish history, so strikingly con- 
firmed by recent research; in the Levitieal law, the prophetic teaching, the entire 
dispensation of temporal promise and of religious worship and instruction, by which 
the Hebrew race was kept in social isolation through fifteen centuries, as a cradle 
for the Redeemer that was to come. She is not awakened by the Christian 
more than by the Jewish history. No way to her assent is opened 
by the great victory of the world's babes and striplings over its 
philosophers and scholars, and the serried array of emperors, aristocracies, and 
statesmen, with their elaborate apparatus of organized institutions. All this cogent 
mass of human testimony is rendered, I admit, on behalf not of a vague and arbitrary 
severance of Christian morals from the roots which have produced them, but of what 
we term the Christian dogma, that is to say, of belief in God supplemented and 
brought home by the great fact of Redemption, and of the provision made through 
the Church of Christ for the perpetual conservation and application of its living 
powers. 

And it must be observed that, in adducing this evidence from consent, I make no 
assumption and beg no question as betwhen reformed and unreformed Christianity- 
By any such preferential treatment of a part, I should weaken the authority and betray 
the sacred cause of the whole. All that can be said or shown of the corruptions that 
have gathered round the central scheme, of the failure rightly to divide the word of 
truth of the sin and shame than in a hundred forms have belied its profession, affords 
only new proof of the imperishable vitality that has borne so much disease, of the buoy- 
ancy of the ark on whose hull has grown so much of excrescence without arresting 
its course through the waters. And again, the concord of Christians ever since the 
great adjudication of the fifth century on the central truth has acquired an addition 
of weight almost incalculable, from the fact they have differed so sharply upon many 
of the propositions that are grouped around it. 

Without doubt human testimony is to be duly and strictly sifted, and every de- 
fect in its quantity or quality is to be recorded in the shape of a deduction from its 
weight. But as there is no proceeding more irreverent, so there is none more strictly 
irrational, than its wholesale depreciation. Such depreciation is an infallible note of 
shallow and careless thinking, for it very generally implies an exaggerated and 
almost ludicrous estimate of the capacity and performances of the present genera- 
tion, as compared with those which have preceded it. Judges in our own cause, 
pleaders with nobody to reply, we take ample note of every comparative advantage 
we possess, but forget to register deteriorating and disqualifying influences. Not 
less commonly is our offense avenged by our own inconsistency. The solemn voice 



ROBERT ELSMERE' S MENTAL STRUGGLES. \^t 

of the ages, the securus judicat orbis terrarum, amounts simply to zero for Robert 
Elsmere. Yet he can absolutely surrender to his own selected pope the guidance of 
his understanding; and when he asks himself, at the funeral in the third volume, 
whether the more modest, that is, the emasculated, form of human hope in the 
presence of the Eternal, may not be " as real, as sustaining," as the old one, his reply 
to this great question is — " Let Grey's trust answer for me." 

This great buttress of the old religion, whatever its value, is then withdrawn from 
the new one, which starts like 

" a painted ship 
Upon a painted ocean," 

accredited by a successful venture among the London artisans, who differ (so we are 
told) not only from the classes above and beneath tnem in the metropolis, as to their 
disposition to accept the Christian doctrines, but from their own brethren in the 
north. It is not, therefore, on testimony that the Elsmere gospel takes its stand. 
Does it, then, stand upon philosophy, upon inherent beauty and fitness, as compared 
with the scheme which it dismembers and then professes to replace? Again, be it 
borne in mind that the essence of the proposal is to banish the supernatural idea and 
character of our Lord, but to imbibe and assimilate His moral teachings. 

From my antiquated point of view, this is simply to bark the tree, and then, as 
the death which ensues is not immediate, to point out with satisfaction on the instant 
that it still waves living branches in the wind. We have before us a huge larcenous 
appropriation, by the modern schemes, of goods which do not belong to them. They 
carry peacock's feathers, which adorn them for a time, and which they cannot repro- 
duce. Let us endeavor to learn whether these broad assumptions, which flow out of 
the historic testimony of the Christan ages, are also prompted and sustained by the 
reason of the case. 

It is sometimes possible to trace peculiar and marked types of human character 
with considerable precision to their causes. Take, for instance, the Spartan type of 
character, in its relation to the legislation attributed to Lycurgus. Or take, again, the 
Jewish type, such as it is presented to us both by the ancient and the later history, 
in its relation to the Mosaic law and institutions. It would surely have been a vio- 
lent paradox, in either of these cases, to propose the abolition of the law, and to as 
sert at the same time that the character would continue to be exhibited, not only 
sporadically and for a time, but normally and in permanence. 

These were restricted, almost tribal, systems. Christianity, though by no means 
less peculiar, was diffusive. It both produced a type of character wholly new to the 
Roman world, and it fundamentally altered the laws and institutions, the tone, tem- 
per, and tradition of that world. For example, it changed profoundly the relation 
of the poor to the rich, and the almost forgotton obligations of the rich to the 
poor. It abolished slavery, abolished human sacrifice, abolished gladiatorial shows, 
and a multitude of other horors. It restored the position of woman in society. 
It proscribed polygamy ; and put down divorce, absolutely in the West, though not 
absolutely in the East. It made peace, instead of war, the normal and presumed re- 
lation between human societies. It exhibited life as a discipline everywhere and in 
all its parts, and changed essentially the place and function of suffering in human ex- 
perience. Accepting the ancient morality as far as it went, it not only enlarged but 
transfigured its teaching, by the laws of humility and of forgiveness, and by a law of 
purity perhaps even more new and strange than these. Let it be understood that 
I speak throughout not of such older religion as may have subsisted in the low- 
ly and unobserved places of human life, but of what stamped the character of 
its strongholds ; of the elements which made up the main and central currents of 
thought, action, and influence, in those places, and in those classes, which drew the 
rest of the world in their train. All this was not the work of a day, but it was the 
work of powers and principles which persistently asserted themselves in despite of 
controversy, of infirmity, and of corruption in every form ; which reconstituted in 
life and vigor a society found in decadence ; which by degrees came to pervade the 
very air we breathe ; and which eventually have beyond all dispute made Christen- 
dom the dominant portion, and Christianity the ruling power, of the world. And all 



128 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

this has been done, not by eclectic and arbitrary fancies, but by the creed of the 
Homoousian, in which the philosophy of modern times sometimes appears to find a 
favorite theme of ridicule. But it is not less material to observe that the whole fab- 
ric, social as well as personal, rests on the new type of individual charac- 
ter which the Gospel brought into life and action : enriched and 
completed without doubt from collateral sources which made part of 
the "Evangelical preparation," but in its central essence due entirely to 
the dispensation, which had been founded and wrought out in the land of 
Judea, and in the history of the Hebrew race. What right have we to detach, or to 
suppose we can detach, this type of personal character from the causes out of which 
as matter of history it has grown, and to assume that without its roots it will thrive 
as well as with them ? 

For Mrs. Ward is so firmly convinced, and so affectionately sensible, of the ex- 
quisite excellence of the Christian type that she will permit no abatement from it, 
though she thinks it can be cast in a mold which is human as well as, nay, better 
than, in one which is divine. Nor is she the first person who, in renouncing the 
Christian tradition, has reserved her allegiance to Christian morals and even sought 
to raise their standard. We have, for instance, in America, not a person only, 
but a society, which, while trampling on the Divinity and Incarnation of 
Christ, not only accepts His rule of life, but pushes evangelical coun- 
sels into absolute precepts, and insists upon them as the rule of life for all who seek, 
instead of abiding in the " lower floor churches," to be Christians indeed. The ''fun- 
damental principles of Shakerism" are " virgin purity, non-resistance, peace, equality 
of inheritance, and unspottedness from the world."* The evidence of travelers ap- 
pears to show that the ideal ef these projectors has to a certain degrea been realized; 
nor can we know for how many years an eccentric movement of this kind will endure 
the test of time without palpably giving way. The power of environment, and the 
range of idiosyncrasy, suffice to generate, especially in dislocating times, all sorts 
of abnormal combinations, which subsist, in a large degree, upon forces not their 
own, and so impose themselves, with a show of authority, upon the world. 

Let us return to the point. The Christian type is the product and the property of 
the Christian scheme. No, says the objector, the improvements which we witness 
are the offspring of civilization. It might be a sufficient answer to point out that 
the civilization before and around us is a Christian civilization. What civilization 
could do without Christianity for the greatest races of mankind we know already. 
Philosophy and art, creative genius and practical energy, had their turn before the 
Advent ; and we can register the results. I do not say that the great Greek and 
Roman ages lost — perhaps even they improved— the ethics of meum and tuum, in the 
interests of the leisured and favored classes of society, as compared with what those 
ethics had been in archaic times. But they lost the hold whioh some earlier 
races within their sphere had had of the future life. They degraded, and that im- 
measurably, the position of woman. They effaced from the world the law of purity. 
They even carried indulgence to a worse than bestial type ; and they gloried in the 
achievements Duty and religion, in the governing classes and the governing 
places, were absolutely torn asunder ; and self-will and self -worship were established 
as the unquestioned rule of life. It is yet more important to observe that the very 
qualities which are commended in the Beatitudes, and elsewhere in the Sermon on 
the Mount, and which form the base of the character specifically Christian, were for 
the Greek and the Roman mind the objects of contempt. From the history of all 
that has lain within the reach of the great Mediterranean basin, not a tittle of en- 
couragement can be drawn from the ideas of those, who would surrender the 
doctrines of Christianity and yet retain its moral and spiritual fruits. 

Does then that severance, unsustained by authority or by experience, commend 
itself at any single point by an improved conformity with purely abstract principles 
of philosophy ? and is the new system better adapted to the condition and the needs 

* The quotation is from a preface to " Shaker Sermons," by H. L. Eads, Bishop of South 
Union, Kentucky. Fourth edition, 1887. 

t See for instance the EficOreS of Luclan. 



ROBERT ELSMERE'S MENTAL STRUGGLES. 129 

of human nature, than the old ? Does it better correspond with what an enlightened 
reason would dictate as the best provision for those needs ? Does it mitigate or does 
it enhance, the undoubted difficulties of belief ? And if the answer must be given in 
the negative to both these inquiries, how are we to account for the strange phenome- 
non which exhibits to us persons sincerely, nay painfully, desirous of seeing Divine 
government more and more accepted in the world, yet enthusiastically busied in cut- 
ting away the best among the props, by which that government has been heretofore 
sustained ? 

As regards the first of these three questions, it is to be observed that, while the 
older religions made free use of prodigy and portent, they employed these instruments 
for political rather than moral purposes: and it may be doubted whether the sum 
total of such action tended to raise the standard of life and thought. The general up- 
shot was that the individual soul felt itself very far from God. Our bedimmed eye 
could not perceive His purity; and our puny reach could not find touch of His vast- 
ness. By the scheme of Redemption this sense of distance was removed. The divino 
perfections were reflected through the medium of a perfect humanity, and were thus 
made near, familiar, and liable to love. The great all-pervading law of human sym- 
pathy became directly available for religion, and in linking us to the Divine Human- 
ity, linked us by the same act to God. And this is not for rare and exceptional 
souls alone, but for the common order of mankind. The direct contact, the interior 
personal communion of the individual with God, was re-established : for human 
faculties, in their normal action, could now appreciate, and approach to, what 
had previously been inappreciable and unapproachable. Surely the system I have 
thus rudely exhibited was ideally a great philosophy, as well as practically an im- 
measurable boon. To strike out the redemptive clauses from the scheme is to erase 
the very feature by which it essentially differed from all other schemes; and to sub- 
stitute a didactic exhibition of superior morality, with the rays of an example in the 
preterite tense, set by a dead man in Judea, for that scheme of living forces, by 
which the powers of a living Saviour's humanity are daily and hourly given to man, 
under a charter which expires only with the world itself. Is it possible here to dis- 
cern, either from an ideal or from a practical point of view, anything but depletion 
and impoverishment, and the substitution of a spectral for a living form ! 

If we proceed to the second question, the spectacle, as it presents itself to me, is 
stranger still. Although we know that James Mill, arrested by the strong hand of 
Bishop Butler, halted rather than rested for a while in theism on his progress 
towards general negation, yet his case does not supply, nor can we draw from other 
sources, any reason to regard such a position as one which can be largely and per- 
manently held against that relentless force of logic, which is ever silently at work to 
assert and to avenge itself. The theist is confronted, with no breakwater between, 
by the awful problem of moral evil, by the mystery of pain, by the apparent anoma- 
lies of waste and of caprice on the face of creation; and not least of all by the fact 
that, while the moral government of the world is founded on the free agency of man, 
there are in multitudes of cases environing circumstances independent of his 
will which seem to deprive that agency, called free, of any operative power adequate 
to contend against them. In this bewildering state of things, in this great 
enigma of the world, " Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments 
from Bozrah ? . . . Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments 
like him that treadeth in the wine-fat I " * There has come upon the scene the figure 
of a Redeemer, human and divine. Let us grant that the Incarnation is a marvel 
wholly beyond our reach, and that the miracle of the Resurrection to-day gives seri- 
ous trouble to fastidious intellects. But the difficulties of a baffled understanding, 
lying everywhere around us in daily experience, are to be expeeted from its limita- 
tions ; not so the shocks encountered by the moral sense. Even if the Christian 
scheme slightly lengthened the immeasurable catalogue of the first, this is dust in 
in the balance compared with the relief it furnishes to the second ; in supplying the 
most powerful remedial agency ever known, in teaching how pain may be made a help- 
er, an evil transmuted into good; and in opening clearly the vision of another world, 

* Is. bdii. 1, 2. 
VOL. OXLVIII. — NO. 386. 9 



130 THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW. 

in which we are taught to look for yet larger counsels of the Almighty wisdom. To 
take away, then, the agency so beneficient, which has so softened and reduced the 
moral problems that lie thickly spread around us, and to leave us face to face with 
them in all their original rigor, is to enhance and not to mitigate the difficulties of be- 
lief. 

Lastly, it is not difficult to understand why those who prefer the Pagan ideal, or 
who cannot lay hold on the future world, or who labor under still greater disadvan 
tages, should put aside as a whole the Gospel of God manifestin the flesh. But Mrs. 
Ward is none of these ; and it is far harder to comprehend the mental attitude, or the 
mental consistency at least, of those who like her desire to retain what was mani- 
fested, but to thrust aside the manifesting Person, and all that His living personality 
entails: or, if I may borrow an Aristotelian figure, to keep the accidents and 
discard the substance. I cannot pretend to offer a solution to this hard riddle. But 
there is one feature which almost uniformly marks writers whose mind, as in this 
case, is of a religious tone, or who do not absolutely exclude religion, while they re- 
ject the Christian dogma and the authority of Scripture. They appear to have a 
very low estimate both of the quantity and quality of sin ; of its amount, spread like 
a deluge over the world, and of the subtlety, intensity, and virulence of its nature. 
I mean a low estimate as compared with the mournful denunciations of the sacred 
writings, or with the language especially of the later Christian Confessions. Now let 
it be granted that, in interpreting these Christian Confessions, we do not sufficiently 
allow for the enormous differences among human beings— differences both of original 
disposition and of ripened character. We do not sufficiently take account of 
the fact that, while disturbance and degradation have so heavily affected the mass, 
there are a happy few on whom nature's degeneracy has but lightly laid its hand. In 
the biography of the late Dr. Marsh we have an illustration apt for my purpose. His 
family was straitly Evangelical. He underwent what he deemed to be conversion. 
A like-minded friend congratulated his mother on the work of Divine grace in her 
son. But, in the concrete, she mildly resented the remark, and replied that in truth 
" Divine grace would find very little to do in her son William." 

In the novel of " The Unclassed," by the author of " Thyrza," which like " Bob- 
ert Elsmere" is of the didactic and speculative class, the leading man-character. 
when detailing his mental history, says that " sin" has never been for him a word of 
weighty import. So ingenuous a confession is not common. I remember but one ex. 
ception to the rule that the negative writers of our own day have formed, or at least 
have exhibited, a very feeble estimate of the enormous weight of sin, as a factor in 
the condition of man and of; the world. That exception is Amiel. Mrs. Ward has 
prefixed to her translation of his remarkable and touching work an Introduction, 
from which I make the following extract : 

" His Calvanistio training lingers long in him ; and what detaches him from the Hegelian 
school, with which he has much in common, is his own stronger sense of personal need, his pre- 
ocaupation with the idea of sin. He speaks (says M. Kenan, contemptuously) of sin, of salvation, 
of redemption and conversion, as if these things were realities. He asks me : • "What does M. 
Kenan make of sin?' 'Eh bien, je cnris queje le supprime.' " 

The closing expression is a happy one : Sin is for the most part suppressed. 

We are bound to believe, and I for one do believe, that in many cases the reason 
why the doctrines of grace, so profoundly imbedded in the Gospel, are dispensed with 
by the negative writers of the day, is in many cases because they have not fully had 
to feel the need of them ; because they have not traveled with Saint Paul through 
the dark valley of agonizing conflict, or with Dante along the circles downward and 
the hill upward ; because, having to bear a smaller share than others of the common 
curse and burden, they stagger and falter less beneath its weight. 

But ought they not to know that they are physicians, who have not learned the 
principal peril of the patient's case, and whose prescription accordingly omits the main 
requisite for a cure ? For surely in this matter there should be no mistake. As the 
entire Levitical institutions seem to have been constructed to impress upon 
the Hebrew mind a deep and definite idea of sin, we find in the New Testa- 



ROBERT ELSMERWS MENTAL STRUGGLES. 131 

ment that that portion of our Lord's work was so to speak ready made. But 
he placed itat the foundation of His great design for the future. "When the Com 
forter is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judg- 
ment."* Mrs. Ward seeks, and even with enthusiasm, to "make for righteousness ;" 
but the three terras compose an organic whole, and if a part be torn away the residue 
will bleed to death. For the present, however, we have only to rest in the real, 
though but partial consolation, that if the ancient, and continuous creed of Christen- 
dom has slipped away from its place in Mrs. Ward's brilliant and subtle understand- 
ing, it has, nevertheless, by no means lost a true, if unacknowledged, hold upon the 
inner sanctuary of her heart. 

W. E. Gladstone. 



* John xvi. 8.